We must expand Medicaid.
Expansion would cover 500,000 residents who do not have health insurance.
Thousands of uninsured people will become infected. Their choice is to seek care they cannot pay for, incur costs that will not be reimbursed to hospitals and add financial pressure to our healthcare system. Or they don’t get care, die in greater numbers and spread the virus.
Medicaid expansion is available, but our legislature has refused to expand the program. This makes N.C. more vulnerable to this pandemic than it should be, and it’s not too late for our legislature to do the right thing.
Federal taxes we already pay would cover 90 percent of expansion and already pay for expansion in most other states. The remaining 10 percent can be paid by insurers and hospitals. Expansion would bring billions to our economy, thousands of jobs and support struggling rural hospitals, at a time when this support is crucial.
We must resurrect our state’s Unemployment Insurance program.
Our state has the cruelest unemployment insurance program in the entire country.
In 2013, the legislature cut benefits by almost half and made them more difficult to get. Today, the state’s trust fund has about $4 billion, but the program fails workers.Fewer than one in 10 unemployed workers receives any unemployment benefits, the lowest participation rate in the country. Those who do receive an average $277 per week for just 8.7 weeks. Our state can afford to restore this program to a level of human decency and economic rationality.
Gov. Cooper’s executive order and congressional action expanding benefits to workers impacted by COVID-19 are a start, but our state’s program does not go far enough to support people who are out of work.Thousands need unemployment benefits for financial support. We must provide decent benefits, to help both families and our economy weather this crisis.
We must restore state funding for civil legal aid to help people meet basic needs during COVID-19 and beyond.
Life altering decisions are made every day in our legal system that impact a person’s chance at a stable life. Most people cannot navigate the system effectively without legal help, but no one has the constitutional right to an attorney in civil legal cases.
State funding for civil legal services was $7 million per year before the recession, since reduced to $1 million.
Legal aid attorneys prevent bad situations from spiraling out of control. Restoring this funding would enable our organizations to help more people during this crisis and beyond, ensuring equal opportunity for low-income people.Thousands more now need legal assistance to manage debt, access health care, avoid homelessness, stop domestic abuse, and file for small business loans to help the economy recover.This work stabilizes families in crisis. It reduces the need for emergency services and improves families’ income, health and well-being.With one in four children already living in poverty, we cannot wait another day to help families through legal assistance.Now is the time to step up and serve the people of this state, who are the victims of this crisis. They need support, and so does our economy. These investments would ensure residents can reach their fullest potential regardless of socioeconomic background or whatever crisis life throws their way.
Now is the time. Urge your state legislators to act quickly.
By Jim Barrett, Executive Director, Pisgah Legal Services and Ken Schorr, Executive Director, Charlotte Center for Legal Advocacy